archiv: unto ashes

archive review originally posted on the losing today site c. 2002/3


The second album from Unto Ashes treads more like a spiritual event rather than a tangible music score, cleverly constructed deep resonating arrangements are close at the heart of this sophisticated tapestry. To describe it succinctly would be to use words such as elegant, lush, cerebral and classical but even then these seem to underplay the true nature that radiates from within this burning epic.

Unto Ashes share the same exalted melodic spheres of renaissance grandeur as such luminaries as Dead Can Dance and Current 93, they are inspired and create orchestrations from another time line that’s far removed from the fickle ambitions of today’s more widely accepted pop parameters, in doing so they weave a spellbinding cloak of cultured lavish textures, intricate atmospherics and alluring harmonies. Arming themselves with lost primitive instrumentation that sees the use of the hurdy gurdy, the Appalachian dulcimer, Persian sax and bowed Chinese gongs Unto Ashes ably concoct a potent chemistry of fabled medieval Eastern European folk and mystical enchantment that is unworldly, bewitching, intoxicating, sensual and hunting.

The blueprint for ‘Empty into White’ is steeped in apocalyptic folk charms, as early as the second cut the evocatively mesmerising ‘Spider Song’ with its maddeningly claustrophobic eastern vibrations you get insight at the unfurling statuesque aesthetics that this quartet are endeavouring to unearth Ericah Hagle’s vocals almost soaring with Ofra Haza like dynamics. On the gothic laden ‘Witches’ rune’ menacing monastic like textures are tripped by tribal rhythms and softly intertwining mantras to achieve an eerie gloss, the theme is further explored to deeper effect on the Cathedral-esque ‘Beauty Queen’ while ‘Bathsheba Writhing’ alludes to ancient ritualistic dances to fervent effect.

One of the centrepieces to the album is the mosaic ‘I am blind’ which has an oddly disquieting presence to it that partly trips towards the shaded areas of dark psychedia while exuding a sense of haunting portent within it’s grooves, creeping chords blend with middle Eastern tablatures imparting exotic fragrances. ‘Heralds of War’ is perfectly titled with its doom-laden cinematics and pensive foreboding lightened in contrast by the cascading choral chimes of the delicate flurries of ‘De Store Smerte’. With the inclusion of a truly memorable re-working of Blue Oyster Cult’s ‘Don’t fear (the Reaper)’ which near matches This Mortal Coil’s gracefully rescued ‘Song to the Siren’, ‘Empty in White’ is a majestic exposition of finite splendour.

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